AFA Policy Forum
"The New DoD Civil Service System"
Major General John M. Speigel
Director of Personnel Policy/Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, HQ/USAF
Air & Space Conference 2004—Washington, DC
September 13, 2004
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Major General Speigel: How many of you know anything about the National Security Personnel System?
[A few raise hands] Oh, boy. That's scary, isn't it? How many of you hope to know something when we're
finished with this about the National Security Personnel System? Good. I'll raise my hand too and we'll all
be in here together.
This will be interesting time as we try to dialogue on the National Security Personnel System, what it is,
who it is, and what we hope to get out of it. I know we have a lot of folks in the crowd that are either
demonstration project folks who have experience with some kinds of pay for performance systems, and if you all
have something you want to interject, please do that so we can have a dialogue.
I'll change the rules of engagement just a little bit because as we get into this if there's a question, stop
me at that point so we can try to talk about it and we can work our way through, rather than wait until the very
end. Then the issue may or may not be remembered and we may not get to it.
On that note, let’s continue to go through a series of slides I have. We'll take as much time as you all
would like to have and as short a time as you all would like to have on this particularly thorny subject.
It's interesting because the law was passed, yet we're still debating the merits of the National Security
Personnel System. Should we or should we not have it? People forget that we already have the law. The law was
passed as part of the FY04 NDAA and now what we've got to do is—people remind us on a frequent basis that the
devil's in the details—really get down to the brass tacks to work the hard details that are associated with this
new National Security Personnel System.
Those who are familiar with the Department of Homeland Security and their efforts, anybody familiar with
their efforts on their new process that they have in place, at least they're working on it. They don't have it
in place yet. They've been working on this for some period of time and I will tell you we will work on the
National Security Personnel System for some period of time. It's not one of those that you just go live
instantly, you flip the switch and suddenly everything is magic.
If you think about it, when you buy your new Windows or your new Microsoft system, you forget about the years
of development that were behind the system. That's what we have to keep in mind as we work the National Security
Personnel System, what it is and what it isn't. And so it will be a multi-layered, multi-year process that will
get us a new personnel system that will make us better for the 21st century.
Again, I would just put a disclaimer out here because as we get into this process everybody has their own view
of what's good and what's bad; and as we go through that process part of you will be in the “tastes great” crowd,
part of you will be in the “less filling” crowd and we'll be arguing back and forth perhaps from that vantage
point. But there is goodness as we try to keep, as I say, the ball in the field of play, as we try to advance
all the lessons learned, all the things that we've garnered out of our demonstration projects, out of our
laboratory projects, AcDemo. How many of you are familiar with China Lake? The China Lake Project? That's been
around since 19-umpty-ump. It's been around at least 20-plus years but we've never done anything with it. We
have all these demonstration projects, but we never do anything with the demonstration project. The whole idea
of a demonstration project is what? To demonstrate goodness out of that, take and try to garner out the good
things, and then apply that to the rest of the force. What we have done is we just have a tendency, because it's
too tough to do.
The last time we tried to reform civil service, for those that remember and have been in civil service for
awhile, was back during the Jimmy Carter days, and frankly we didn't do that very well. We'll talk about perhaps
why that failed in the process, but a lot of that has to do with communications, a lot of that has to do with
training, a lot of it has to do with changing management in terms of where it is and where we need to go to and
why we need to do that.
I already mentioned to you that this was part of the FY04 NDAA, we do have it as law, so there's not anything
to discuss about it, but there are a couple of things that I would highlight for you that are important. There's
a couple of words in there. It's, "The Secretary of Defense and the OPM Director who will jointly prescribe the
directives of the new personnel system." So this is done in partnership with OPM, not in isolation of OPM. They
have been deeply engaged in the Department of Homeland Security and the efforts that are underway there to
construct a new program.
There are a couple of elements that we're focused on. One is of course a new human resources system; the
other is labor relations; and then an appeals process for our employees to try to streamline what it is that
we're doing. Then we want to do that in concert with our stakeholders out there, and that includes the unions.
Some of you saw early on with the discussions on Homeland Security and when the department was being stood
up—here in Washington, D.C. anyway, we saw full-page ads in The Washington Post opposed to a new personnel
system. Change creates great anxiety—there is no doubt about that. That's true whether you're in a civilian
suit or whether you're in a uniform. Even if you're a contractor, those changes out there create anxiety and
we have to learn to live with that and deal with that, but we need to make that as painless to everyone as
possible, and that happens through a great communications process.
After the law was passed, there were some initiatives underway to try to move forward on the National
Security Personnel System, in fact to implement it as early as this October. There was some anxiety that was
expressed within the services and within the Department of Defense that this is a pretty monumental effort and
we shouldn't just speed to get to the other end and then fail and stumble in the process. In fact, some folks
forget in the demonstration projects, some of those were a couple of years in the making before they actually
went live. It takes time to try to craft out all the nuances that go with this, and when you're dealing with
the personnel system that cuts across the entire Department of Defense, this is a huge undertaking.
As a result of those discussions, there was a program office that was established in April which is called
the National Security Program, Program Executive Officer (PEO)—Ms. Mary Lacey, who came out of the Navy. What
we're trying to do is treat this just like we would a major program acquisition effort. This is huge. And
you can't just seem to think that we'll just spit out some rules and new directives and regulations and
heave-ho them over to the wall and let the services implement them because you can't take a workforce that
we've got on the civilian side of the house, 150,000 or so, and suddenly wake up one morning and find out,
“wow, we now have NSPS.”
There are a number of reasons that drove us to this dialogue and everybody's been engaged in that. I alluded
to it earlier, we've taken the best practices and looked at the demonstration projects. We've got years of
experience in demonstration projects starting with China Lake and on through. And in the Air Force, our
acquisition demonstration projects, our lab demonstration projects. Each one of those have different nuggets in
it and this get into the “tastes great/less filling” crowd, because some folks like their new demonstration or
their existing demonstration project, so they're fearful of where NSPS is going to take them because “maybe I
might lose something that I currently have in my demonstration project.” That's not our intent, but we do want
to try to make sure that we capture the good things and then apply that to everybody across the board. But I
think most folks would deal with, at least anecdotally, some of those issues or initiatives that are up there
that give us great pause and trouble.
Hiring. Extremely slow. Now I’ve got to tell you, I've got a son who as graduating from college. I thought
I'd use him as sort of my guinea pig in the Petri dish, and I said, “Hey, go talk to a civilian recruiter in the
federal sector and sort of see what they say and see how long it takes for them to offer you a job.” Anyway, he
moved back home before that because he couldn't wait that long, okay? [Laughter] It's just too cumbersome and
too slow and we deal with this across the board. Managers are frustrated. It takes a long time.
But frankly, I would ask our managers, I'll get my list down, my cert list. I'll have that and guess what?
The day's actions are bigger than my time to look at that list and so a day goes by and pretty soon two days
goes by, a week goes by, two weeks goes by, and pretty soon it's going to expire on me and I suddenly find that
I need to do something. It wasn't to try to be punitive, it was just simply trying to say, “Hey managers, you
have a responsibility too, to help speed the process up.” It's not always just all over on the HR side of the
house. But the hiring process is extremely slow, so that impacts our ability to hire the right people at the
And certainly, in the height of the dot-com days of the 1990s, late-1990s, 2000 timeframe, trying to compete
with industry was extremely challenging. To be able to make a job offer and hire somebody almost on the spot,
frankly, was nearly impossible, and it's tough to compete with a company like Sysco who wants to offer you 500
shares of stock. Now, in those days it was actually worth something. Today, it's worth a little bit less, but
it is something that is at least an incentive and a hook to folks out there. But that's what we would like to
be able to do in terms of our process in the personnel system to help us from that standpoint.
The other thing that we've looked at across the spectrum is that our performers get paid basically whether
you're a poor performer or a good performer. Every once in awhile you do have some rewards at the end of the
year in those bonuses, but they're really relatively small and they're relatively token to a large extent in
terms of what a super performer is paid and acknowledged for in terms of their contribution. This really changes
the way we think about our business. If you think in terms of outcomes—how do we work in teams, how do we focus
on outcomes, and how do we bring this all together so I can measure performance and pay you and reward you for
I had somebody ask me, “what if I don't get a big pay raise or what if my salary is a lot less than what it
would have normally been under the GS system?” Yeah, that's possible. But that's also a way of management
trying to say, “hey, wake up, listen, you're not performing with the rest of the crowd and you need to do better
in your performance.”
Now that means managers have got to do a better job of managing, so I'm back holding the mirror up at each of
us that are managers in this room because we can't hide behind the regulations anymore or the Air Force
instructions. We actually have to spend time managing our employees. I will tell you in a pay for performance
system it is more involving and more engaging between you the manager and the employee, to make sure that people
have expectations, have outcomes that could be measurable, and then be able to reward them at the end of the year
The ability to reassign people, move people around as needed. Certainly management has some flexibilities,
but not to the extent that we would like to do. Then this accountability issue really ties back with performance
and the outcome of the organization.
So we want to make sure that we make change out there, but when we make the changes we want to be sure that we
preserve the foundation of what we have with our civil service system today. And those are the things that we
don't change. Merit principles stay the same.
We want to be able to recruit a diverse workforce. We want to pay equal pay for an equal level of work. We
want to be able to take care of and protect folks if you're a whistleblower. None of that gets changed. EEO
rules don't get changed. Retirement doesn't get changed. Veterans preference, a lot of concern early on.
Veterans preference was going to go away. No, veterans’ preference is not going to go away. All those things
are still protected under NSPS. NSPS doesn't change any of those provisions that are up there.
However, it does change in a couple of areas and we'll talk about that.
Now, there are some things in the law that are sort of what we call “low-hanging fruit.” So we've already
moved out on some of those provisions. Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation
Incentive Pay (VSIP) are examples. I can't tell you how many times I wait for the December phone calls asking
where are we on VERA/VSIP so we can get the authorities out, so the commands can do what they need to do, so
folks can get off the roles before the end of the year.
Well, that authority is permanent now. We have 25,000 across the Department of Defense, about 5,800 for the
Air Force. We've never used that many. I think last year we used about 600 under the VERA/VSIP and that
authority that we have which is permanent does not include BRAC. So we still have some additional headroom if
we need to, certainly within the quotas that we currently have. But when BRAC—that other four-letter word that
comes around—happens, then we'll have to deal with the appropriateness of the VERA/VSIP.
Reemployed annuitants, folks that you might be familiar with. This provision of the law allows you to hire
back a civilian who has retired and not decrement their retired pay. So you can receive your full retired pay
and be hired back in.
Now there are a couple of catches to that. Of course, it needs to be a critical job and you've got some
special needs. You’ve got some recruiting challenges that might take place, or maybe you need to get somebody
hired back that might be mentoring, perhaps some new folks that are coming into the office. So that provision
is out there. That's been pushed down to the appointing authority and that delegation is out in the field, as
of last month if I recall correctly. So re-employed annuitants. If you haven't heard about it, it does provide
us some additional flexibility to retain some talent, even after they're retired.
As the military folks retire, the law was changed a couple of years ago so that their retired pay was not
decremented, so this really provided some parity back on the civilian side of the house just like we had on the
Highly qualified experts. This is a provision in the lab side of the house, ironically, that already exists.
The law allows for 2,500 highly qualified experts to be hired in at a very special salary rate to help with
unique kinds of problems, situations, issues. Some have special expertise, maybe they're taking a sabbatical
out of the university, maybe they're a noted expert in that particular field and area. That guidance is being
worked by the Air Force Senior Leader Management Office and that approval level for hiring in a highly qualified
expert will probably be held initially at the Secretary of the Air Force level. So you don't see that being used
very often. Candidly, the lab has it today and they don't use it frequently. It's only used on a couple of
occasions, but more to follow on that. The guidance is down from OSD to us, the ball is in our court on the
personnel side of the house to finish putting the guidance out to the field.
SES performance plan. There’s been a lot of discussion on the SES side of the house. OPM tried to work some
rules on that, and my understanding is they haven't done the final determination on that, which we thought was
going to be towards the end of July, but it hasn't happened yet, in terms of the SES performance system. But I
would tell you that's sort of the forerunner of trying to deal with accountability, to try to deal with outcomes
and enduring competencies that we would like to see in an SES evaluation system, and I would tell you that's
somewhat the forerunner of how that would probably transfer then over to the normal civil service workforce as
well as even the military workforce as we think about a new evaluation system for you blue-suiters that are in
the audience, and look at the way we want to look at ourselves, evaluate our workforce, and then reward our
Pay banding. Anybody familiar with pay banding? [Few raise hands] Okay. The concept of pay banding,
taking career specialties that are of like ilk and combining them together and basically eliminating what we
know today as the GS pay system, the 15-step system, 1 through 10 within those steps. So what we really want to
do is provide greater flexibility. This gets back to the hiring process. This gets back to the ability to move
folks around. That allows you to have greater flexibility for the manager to take care of and reward folks. So
if you're in a pay band, just hypothetically, and the pay bands are yet to determine what they are, some initial
thinking was maybe the pay band might be 5 through 12. You might have a pay band of 13 and 14. You might have a
pay band of 5 through 11, 12 and 13, and another pay band of 14-15. So the ability to move folks through the pay
band to compensate them appropriately, to set that initial salary appropriately gives greater flexibility to
managers out there. But that means we've got to do a better job of instructing and training managers on how to
deal with such an issue as pay banding, and then we've got to deal with the realities of life because this is not
an all-you-can-eat salad bar with unlimited dollars spitting off the copy machine. You have to live within the
fiscal realities of your pay and the pay that OMB is going to hold us accountable for in the President's budget.
We certainly want to look at the staffing process, how then to move folks internally, how to hire folks
speedier from an external basis. Reduction In Force is an issue that we're going to have to try to wrestle with.
What does that new provision look like? Right now, if we deal with Reductions In Force it's basically
longevity-based. So if I've been with the company the longest I'm the most vested and protected, but some
thought that maybe that's the wrong model. Maybe the model should be based upon your performance. This is a
performance-based system, outcome. What did you contribute? So if you're just sitting there logging time, not
really doing anything, maybe during that Reduction In Force you're not protected like you were under the old
rules on longevity.
We've talked a little bit about the labor relations issue. We've had four different meetings with the labor
side of the house, but we've got about 16 unions that we have in the Air Force, probably about 190 bargaining
units, so you can see the complexity of trying to do simple kinds of things. So the idea of national bargaining
on the labor side of the house to help expedite and speed things through that we could agree to across the board
should help streamline the process for everybody engaged in that.
The employee appeals process. It's good for the employee, it's good for the manager. No one likes to have an
appeal go on and on and on and on, almost like the Energizer Bunny, but it just almost seems not to end. It's
disruptive to the employee, it's disruptive to the workplace while this is getting sorted out. So is there a way
to streamline that? Whether you're going to a third party, whether you're bringing in ADR, however you're going
to design that, what that new review group would be, what should happen as a peer group, whatever, to help us on
the employee grievance process? Regardless of what we do, we're always going to have somebody who's going to
feel like they've been grieved against, so we need to make sure we have a good solid process to work our way
through on the employee appeals.
Q: What is the current status of VERA?
Gen Speigel: The VERA/VSIP authority will give you the flexibility to pay folks for retirement and
separation, so we'd generally pay in about $25,000 right now. So it would help shape the force.
We've got some issues with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, candidly, that we've been talking with
them for a number of years on. We reminded them one more time of our concerns because we'd like to do what we
call “daisy chaining” in the process to help us shape the force a little bit better. We're prohibited from
doing that, but the idea here is to help us realign ourselves up and help move some folks along so we can move
some other folks in.
Q: Will NSPS change retirement pay calculations?
Gen Speigel: In terms of retirement system, I mean the normal rules for retirement are all going to be
the same. Certainly your pay and the calculation of your final pay or High Three and all that stuff certainly
could be impacted under a pay for performance system. Again, when you get rewarded at the end of the year under
a pay for performance system the question and the issue that's really on the table is the size of the pay pool.
What is in the pay pool? What's at risk? What's not at risk? And frankly, we don't know that yet. That's what
the working groups are focused on, trying to decide what is available.
Right now, you basically have about 1.5 percent or so of your salary that's available for reward, and by the
time you divide that up, this is sort of like the old GEM system. It failed because, frankly, we didn't do a good
job of changing management and talking about outcomes. But under the pay for performance system, pay pool
management will become extremely difficult and challenging for us so that means we're going to have to spend a
lot of time training the managers and pay pool advisors as to how to work the pay pool. But at the end of the
year your reward may be an increase within your band, which then would affect your final pay, or it could be a
cash bonus just like you get today.
Q: What’s being studied in terms of the employee appeals process?
Gen Speigel: Everything is under study under the employee appeals system. The question was what's
under study on the employee appeals. Basically everything is.
Q: Can you guarantee at this point that there will be an employee appeals process when you’re done
with your review?
Gen Speigel: Absolutely. There will be employee appeals. Any system that you're looking at needs an
employee appeals process. Regardless of how good we think our managers are, sometimes they surprise us.
[Laughter] And rightfully so, there ought to be a redress for that.
The outcome of that is to focus on “how do I streamline that so it really helps everybody?” Not to take away
anybody's right, God forbid. That's not the purpose of that. The purpose, though, is to try to streamline it to
make it better.
That sort of gets to the next slide here which talks about guiding principles. It's always nice to know where
you want to end up. As you travel down that road it's nice to know what that end spot is. So if you have some
basic guiding principles on which you can come back and judge everything, this is just like doing a large program
acquisition. If you think about it, what are the guiding principles that you want to have? If you want to have
an airplane that flies so far in range, speed, lethality, carries so much weight or whatever, or so much in
armament, then those become sort of your non-negotiable performance parameters that you want to come back and
judge against. So those are the guiding principles that are out there, fairly straight forward, and our focus
clearly is on the mission—making sure we put our mission first and support our national security goals.
Again, we are the largest dog in the fight out there and all eyeballs are on DoD because if we do this
extremely well then the natural progression, just like the demonstration projects, will be to probably migrate
this to other federal agencies. Now there are other federal agencies that are ahead of us in this regard and who
have pay for performance systems out there. But this is one that we really need to stay focused on and that gets
back to the heart of the issue of flexibility, the ability to adapt to a changing environment which we're
currently facing, to be able to hire folks that we didn't think we needed yesterday. To be able to put those
position descriptions together and not argue over reams and reams of pages so the classifiers can try to classify
that. We want to just put it into a broad pay band and let managers decide what the person's worth instead of
trying to argue. How many times have we sort of sat there and said, “Gosh, if I could just find that
classifier's bible and just write that word one more time a little different, I could get that from a GS5 to a 6
or something like that.” Whoo, we've really stretched ourselves here. But the idea is to allow us that, give us
This gets back to the questions that are out there on employees. We've got to respect the individual. We
need to make sure that we're protecting their rights. Nothing in the law has changed on the EEOC side of the
house. All of those protections, merit principles, remain. They haven't changed anything out there. And
certainly despite the cumbersome nature of today's system, I think that's a testimony to each and every one of
you all and the tenacity and professionalism of our civilian workforce, we're able to manage ourselves, but in a
very bureaucratic, cumbersome process. But you have great talent and we need to make sure we value that talent
and performance out there by being flexible, providing accountability and balancing that HR system out there for
any unique changes that take place.
We talk about it, and it's not designed to scare anybody, but we want to be competitive and cost effective.
Every day we get onto the block in terms of “is this inherently governmental or is this not, and how are we
competitive, and are we cost effective?”
This is the PEO organization. Mary Lacey, who is the Program Executive, then Mr. Brad Bunn, who is over in the
OSD side of the house, they make up the large part of the NSPS program office. OPM, remember, jointly prescribed
between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of OPM, so Kay Cole James has a big plan this and this guy
named Rumsfeld also has a big play in this. So OPM's very much a partner in the design and development of what
we're trying to do right now. Our liaison is through Dr. Ron Sanders, and more specifically Mr. George
Nusterchuck, who's been hired by Ms. James to help in this relationship and partnership with the Department of
We help in the Air Force, anyway, fill out and round out a lot of these teams here. We've got folks that are
in town, that are engaged in that. Each of the major commands have been asked to nominate folks. We have some
leads on some of these teams. Other teams we're just providing worker bees. But what we wanted to do was ensure
that we had a cross-spectrum of the commands and to ensure that we had a breadth of understanding of the various
issues out there.
Conversely, we also want to ensure, as we dealt with the guiding principles, as we dealt with the PEO
construct, that we were listening to the customer. What we frankly didn't want to do was design an HR system by
a bunch of HRists who could recreate what we have before. We just created an E-version of today's bureaucracy.
That's not what we wanted to do, and we certainly didn't want to make it convenient for us. So I'm putting a
mirror in front of my face as we wrestled with this issue to ensure that we're not making an HR system that's
good for us but not good for the customer.
Is the system at the end of the day easily understood by managers? Is it executable by managers? Can the
blue suit deal with it just as much as the civil servant can under managers? That's a concern that folks have
as blue-suiters maybe move around and what happens during the middle of the year. I've got a new supervisor—how's
he or she going to know what my performance is? What are the parameters that are involved in all that?
So we're involved here in the labor and appeals and the HR system and the staffing process.
The program managers. We have our own program office and then we feed back up and help through our senior
advisory group and involvement from our program manager back to Ms. Lacey. So we're interwoven in a variety of
ways to ensure that no one person has a single vote in this process, but we're collectively working the problem,
and we come up with the best solution that fits across the board for everybody.
So any time you're doing a system like this that means there's a system of checks and balances and there's
also a system of certainly compromise from that standpoint.
Ms. Shirley Williams, who is my deputy down here at the front, is our senior person who's on the senior
advisory group today and is engaged as an advisor to that. We also have one of our two stars from AFMC who is
also engaged in the senior advisory group providing, from a commander's perspective, input to the personnel
When we designed these guiding principles a couple of months ago we brought in commanders from the Air Force,
from the field, to help the Navy, the Army, and the other agencies that were involved in that, to include OPM,
understand our perspective and why the manager's viewpoint was very important to us. It's always nice to go ask
the customer what they want, besides what we think they want.
This is the way we're set up in our program office, pretty straightforward. General Brady, who is the DCS for
personnel; Mr. Roger Blanchard, who is his SES deputy; myself in personnel policy; and Ms. Williams down here in
front. We have established a program management office which will have a term SES in that particular job.
That's already been advertised and recruited for. We're just waiting for the system to okay it. Then the normal
civilian personnel policy offices, these are sort of today and will be tomorrow too, implementation, and then our
project officer to interface back in with Ms. Lacey.
So we're engaged down at that level. Now let me try to merge the two of those together for you and tell you
how we're trying to work the governance piece.
Ms. Lacey and the Program Executive Office interfacing back with our Air Force NSPS program office. On their
frequent meeting I have every Wednesday, and if I'm gone, Ms. Williams will host it, where we have a VTC or
telephone hookup with all the major commands and the key functionals within the Pentagon. We sit down and talk
about the things that took place the week before to try to make sure everybody's on the same wavelength and the
same level of discussion.
Also on a weekly basis we get together with Secretary of the Air Force/Manpower Reserve Affairs (SAF/MR),
Secretary Mike Dominguez. This is in his portfolio for oversight, and we spend time with him because he is also
part of the oversight group in what we call the OIPT, the Oversight Improvement Process—Overarching Integrated
Process Team I guess is what it's called. This is the assistant secretary level. So it's the Mike Dominguez
level and his counterparts in the Army and the Navy, Ms. Lacey as well as OSD, the fourth estate, as well as OPM,
Mr. George Nusterchuck does that in conjunction with Charlie Able, who's the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
for Personnel and readiness, Dr. Chu's deputy dog.
We can see how they're lashed up. We have the weekly hot washes where we put the word out and then anything
that we have that needs to be worked we'll either work it on, every Monday there's a Deputy Chief of Staff for
Personnel and Manpower Reserve Affairs meeting with Dr. Chu and his staff, so if there are issues that need to
be worked, if there are programmatic issues we'll take that back to the Air Force Council and work that
accordingly, and if necessary we'll get to the top four—the top four being Secretary Roche, Secretary Teets,
General Jumper, and General Moseley.
We have a variety of ways we're trying to communicate to folks out there. How many people have been out to
the Air Force NSPS web site? Some of you all have. I'll show you a website address. If you're not, I would
encourage you to go out and sign up on that. Our notion behind that is once you register we can also push
information to you rather than you have to be out there surfing the web every day. So if we have something new
that's posted we'll get that and send you an e-mail that tells you here's the short news. If you want to go to
the web site you can do that to drill down a little bit deeper.
We're trying to use the technology to the best advantage to communicate. One of the lessons we've learned as
we talked to the Edwards crowd who's been much engaged in terms of the demonstration project was this ability to
communicate, communicate, communicate, because there's always somebody out there who didn't feel like they got
the story or knew what was going on or we didn't tell them what was really going on, so we want to make sure that
we're communicating as best as we possibly can and we're doing that through a fashion here on the Air Force side
of the house, and then back through our policy councils and our super councils and our developmental councils as
well. Then we're in a series of visits out to some of the major commands and the bases to try to help spread the
word and let folks know what's going on with NSPS.
Where are we on labor? Let me just try to walk you through a couple of areas here that would be of interest.
There have been four, as I mentioned earlier, four meetings with labor. The first one was really on the 7th and
the 29th of June, which were really more of “let's sit down at the table.” I will tell you, the first meetings
with labor were not productive before we established the NSPS program office. In fact they were pretty hostile.
In fact, they couldn't even agree on how to sit down at the table. It was sort of like the Paris Peace Accords,
but we couldn't agree on how to sit down at the table together.
So we moved beyond that, and in a new frame of cooperation and openness Secretary England, who's been
chartered or charged by the Secretary of Defense to be the overseer from an executive level standpoint, hosted
the first couple of meetings with labor and then most recently we've had some meetings with labor, one as late as
last Friday, the 10th, to talk specifically on the HR system. The one on the 25th and 26th really focused on the
labor piece more than anything else, a little bit on the employee piece.
Right now what we're really trying to do is figure out what is on the minds of labor, what are the things we
need to consider so from a management standpoint as the program office works this. They can take that all into
account to write the directives that are appropriate to go with this. Now it doesn't mean we're all going to
agree at the end of the day, but it means that at least we're sitting down and trying to talk and work our way
So you can see the level of effort that's engaged in this particular series of meetings, most recently last
Friday. I think in the press, the Federal Times, I think they've already had one story on Friday's meeting as
they dealt with the HR piece of that.
Again, we want to make sure—unions are a big stakeholder in this. They are an integral part to help us
through the labor piece of this and certainly the appeals piece and the employee piece of concern. So we want to
continue those labor discussions to make sure we're headed in the right direction.
Where do we go after the 10th? The meeting on the 10th, the ball really is back over on the union side of the
house to advise us when they would like to get back together again. There were probably about 60-plus people in
Friday's meeting; probably about 45 of those were on the labor side of the house representing the various unions,
of course AFGE being sort of the largest of those labor unions, but it cuts across from the smallest to the
largest and then probably there was about 18 or so on the management side of the house who were at the meetings.
So the ball is in labor's court to come back again to talk about substance. Really, everybody now, we've had
the broad discussions. The concepts have been laid out. But the devil's in the details and this is where it
starts to get to be the tough levels of discussion.
We've also tried to help shape our thinking. Although we had best practices, although we had all the lessons
learned from best practices that we could capture, we also really wanted to go back out and make sure we weren't
missing anything, so part of that focus was to go out and look at focus groups and help us in shaping our
Some of you all may have participated in that. We had several focus groups. One, we had some separate focus
groups with the categories you see up there, and then we went to six different bases and we cut across the
spectrum from managers to workers, union folks, to help us think about what it is that's in NSPS, what's broken,
and what do we need to focus on? Hence the name focus group. It makes sense to me.
What were some of the common findings they had? Folks, because we've had this since October technically, or
November when the President signed the law, people want to know what the details are. That was of concern to
them. They were concerned about employee or manager training and how we were going to try to take care of
ensuring that we had sufficient training underway and embedded in whatever we do so folks know how to actually
use the tools under NSPS once it's designed.
So that tells you the common kind of anxiety, and I would tell you it's probably the anxiety that each of you
all in this room have today as you think about NSPS and what it really means to you. So all those inputs that
we get will help us craft back to our NSPS working groups.
The NSPS working groups, you saw those on that large organizational chart, they kicked off on the latter part
of July and for two months they'll stay here in Washington, D.C. and work the various levels of details on those
six key working group areas.
As those details are fleshed out, those will become basically the instructions and the directives that we will
sit back down with the unions in some cases to talk about—the nuances and the details related to those various
So working groups with the inputs from those folks will help us design what the proposed NSPS regulations.
And we hope to have some information in the winter timeframe in the Federal Register so folks have a real sense
of the level of detail that will be under NSPS.
For those who looked at the Federal Register on Department of Homeland Security, there was not in some areas
great detail. That's really largely by design because if you change that you don't have to continue to go back
to the Federal Register if you can work that in other means through your operating instructions. But other
areas, and I would envision, frankly, on the labor piece of that, will be greatly detailed. More so than what it
is today. So we'll sort that out.
The communications piece. Our website. If you will help by contacting us, we can register you. That's not
trying to see who's checking in and spending time out on the web. That's really to help communicate with you and
push information back to you. So I would encourage you to copy that down and make that available.
We're looking at a multitude of ways to try to communicate to our folks. Everybody's fairly web savvy, but we
also recognize not everybody has a computer even still today in the 21st century in their workplace. Certainly
folks out on the flight line, in some of the back shops, that's not readily available, so we want to make sure
that we're trying to reach those folks as well in a variety of communication methods.
This is a notional timeline. We have said before we don't want to be driven by the time, sort of like that
old Gallo wine or something, “no wine will be served before its time.” But our notion behind this is we want to
make sure we've got this right. Certainly in an effort to know what is right, it's like building an F/A-22 or an
F-35, whatever. You're trying to make sure that you've got at least the milestones out there and something to
shoot at to help motivate you and keep you moving along. That's what we're doing with these timelines up there.
Hopefully by the winter we'll have the Federal Register. That will kick off for those that are familiar with
the law sort of what we call the 30/30/30. That will be the actual sit-down, then, in harder fashion with the
union side to hammer out differences of opinion and then review those comments, make determination on that, send
those over to Capital Hill on those issues that we disagree with, perhaps, and hopefully those will be far and
few in terms of what we will have, but being realistic from that standpoint. Then do a final determination.
Then, by the winter/spring timeframe we'll be working the management changes and the technical training.
We see the management and the training piece of this sort of multi-layered in terms of the training we need to
do out there. We've got to work the technical piece of that, but we've got to work with the managers equally as
well so they're familiar with NSPS and the provisions that are out there. The first spiral is in July.
Those that are familiar with acquisition processes, we're going to do this in spiral development. So the first
spiral. In the Air Force we've asked each of the major commands to give us advice and nominate for us who they
would like to have in that first spiral. We have had a meeting. We have agreed tentatively with the bases that
are out there and we probably have about 18 to 19,000 people who would be in that first spiral. It cuts across
all of the major commands, those particular bases that would give us a pretty good breadth in size as well as
experience in previous demonstration projects as well as small facilities out there.
Q: General, have those bases been identified yet?
Gen Speigel: Yes. Again, we had a meeting last week with Secretary Dominguez. We're going to package
that up. We've gone back out to the major commands and told them what those bases are. There's nothing secretive
about it, but some of the bases that we're looking at out there will be Tinker and Eglin. But we're trying to
decide what all is included in the Pentagon. The Pentagon reservation includes a multitude of other folks outside
of the 11th Wing or the Pentagon proper out there. Patrick, if it's still there, they're there this week.
[Laughter] March and McConnell. They haven't blown away. March, McConnell were a couple of bases. We're also
looking overseas and we're in negotiation still with USAFE as well as PACAF. That sort of gets you on the way
ahead and where we're trying to go.
Trying to be as open as we can, trying to be as collaborative as we can with all the stakeholders out there.
You all are some of the stakeholders. In fact, as employees, as managers, every one of us is impacted by this
in some form or fashion, so we want to take all those inputs, let them help us in that regard, so we can figure
out what's good, what is a burr under the saddle that we can try to take and design from a business standpoint to
help us so it's not just an HR system designed by a bunch of HR folks.
Certainly our focus is on the mission and our national security goals. We appreciate all of your inputs and
all of your thoughts on that.
Q: What is the methodology for those inputs?
Gen Speigel: Again, we had the focus groups. They've already met. They've done their thing. So if
you didn't have that, we do have the capability through the website to provide us inputs, and please do that so
we can try to capture those thoughts.
Q: When do you expect that to be in place?
Gen Speigel: July-ish. Don't hold me to July. It could be June, could be August, could be September.
Q: After the first spiral in July, when do you think you’ll have everybody in the system?
Gen Speigel: That's a good question. Our goal is to have everybody migrated by '08. So some of you
all are calibrating your schedule thinking let's see, I'm going to retire—okay. [Laughter] That's all right.
But really, we want to start in July of '05 and we need to finish by '08 for a variety of reasons. There are
some provisions in the law that frankly have a sunset clause in '08 like the labor piece, so it's important that
we have that embedded and working, otherwise it has a sunset clause.
So I mentioned very early on, this is a multi-year, multi-tasked process and it’s not going to happen
overnight. You don't build, we're not on the 1.0 version of the avionic systems for the F/A-22. We're working
it, we're working it real hard. It looks like a great airplane and it's going to do everything we really want it
to do, but we're flying and testing it and we're doing in a major program acquisition. That's the same notion
on this is NSPS.
Q: How will the NSPS interact with the basic pay system and programmed raises in that system? What is
the performance cycle which they would work against?
Gen Speigel: That's all still to be worked out. Candidly, we've talked about changing the performance
cycle and the rating cycle. The working groups are going to have to dig into that and ensure that we're not
disenfranchising anybody. Anybody that's converting over in the first spiral, wherever you are today you will
convert over in the same salary so you're not going to lose out on anything. Frankly what we've got to work out
are WIGIs, within grade increases. Where are you in that process so we can buy that out so you're not penalized
when you convert over under NSPS?
So what's in the pay pool, and how do you reward folks in that? Is the general pay increase part of that?
Locality pay's been out, there's been some discussions, but as far as I know at this stage there's no inclusion
of locality pay at risk. But the question of the normal, standard annual pay raise and how you sort that out.
So to answer you specifically, we're going to have to look at that first spiral, to set in motion the
performance plans. What you're really going to do is evaluate them in the '06 timeframe once you can get through
a whole cycle, and then we've got to make sure that we're not disenfranchising anybody. So there are a lot of
moving parts to that.
Q: I’m at Robbins Air Force Base and wanted to know when the Air Force will implement a communications
plan to get the word out on NSPS to folks at the base level.
Gen Speigel: The PA communication plan? We've got a number of things that are out right now on the
website. The briefing's out to the major commands along with some talking points for folks because we want them
to start talking about NSPS. You're at Robbins, so I've got Lief Peterson down here from AFMC, so maybe we can
hook you up and make sure we've got you squared away at Robbins.
Q: What is the status with the other commands in terms of designating an OPR for NSPS implementation?
Gen Speigel: First off, what we're looking at is the nominations from the commands. It's not one of
these, “hey, do you want to or do you not want to?” Okay? [Laughter] You've already stepped across the line
and didn't even realize it.
Q: Will wage grade be included as well?
Gen Speigel: Exactly. So we're still working with the GS side of the house on that. I know there are
some questions in terms of NAF and wage grade and whether they're included or not. They're not excluded from
NSPS. Certainly in spiral one we won't include them.
Q: Will the OPM classification system change?
Gen Speigel: Clearly, you're still going to have OPM job series out there and I don't see those going
away, although candidly I've talked to Dr. Sanders on a number of occasions about their effort to try to
streamline the job series that we have and to do some merging in some areas. Those that might be remembering the
civil engineer side of the house, we used to have exterior electricians and interior electricians. It's
electricians. Granted, it's a bigger shock on the outside than it is on the inside of your house. But it’s like
heating and air conditioning. The heating person didn't talk to the air conditioning person.
So there are some series that we just need to work our way through, but OPM is going to have to help us with
that, to do the heavy lifting in terms of the job series. Ron says he's got that on his plate. We'll have to
wait and see how far they go on that. But you'll have that job series and you'll still be stuck to that job
series for right now, but the good news is within that band we won't have to argue any more over whether that
wing commander's secretary's a five or a six. Just pay her or him what he's worth.
Q: Have you done any benchmarking with other organizations that use pay for performance plans?
Gen Speigel: Yeah. All of that's been looked at. A lot of that discovery work was done under the
best practices. Remember the genesis of the NSPS law as we know it today was the best practices, and that was
really for the demonstration projects. But yes, I've even participated in a symposium over at NAPA, National
Association of Public Administrators. We had a whole symposium on pay for performance, trying to understand
other federal agencies that have those.
I will candidly tell you, and even have it set up with the folks at AFRL, and they're quite proud of what
they've done. But as they've migrated along they will tell you, just like the Edwards crowd and others in the
demonstration projects, this is incremental and spiral in that regard. They're not on the 1.0 version. They
continue to make improvements and refine that. That was the lesson learned that I got at least out of NAPA and
talking to the other fellow agencies. This is a continuing evolution, not a revolution, but an evolution.
Improving what we do and how we do that.
Will we get it right out of the chute the first time? I hope we've got a good solution set. I trust we will
have a good solution set because we have a good program office structure to try to help pull this together. But
there will be some who will say “taste great” and another crowd who will be “less filling” when it's all all said
Q: Do you view the unions as a strong obstacle to the implementation of the NSPS?
Gen Speigel: The short answer is no. The unions, even in those four meetings as we sat down
management with the union representatives there, let them know that OSD, the PEO office is continuing to work
toward writing, through those working groups, actual directives. So if they want to participate, come on and
participate. Tell us what you think. The ball's sort of in the union's court to share what's on their mind.
So I don't see them as an obstacle. In fact we see it as a partnership. They're a key stakeholder. I wouldn't
want to downplay that. And frankly, we need to also understand what is national bargaining? What does that
mean? How does that impact us? And they're wrestling with that. So they've got some issues on the union side
of the house just trying to figure out how to organize and who sits at the table and who's represented from that
But I see this as a great collaborative effort. I think the comments out of Friday's meeting were fairly
positive, the most positive to date, that we heard out of the trade side of the house. One of the specific union
representatives that was there was impressed with the positive dialogue.
Does that mean everything's rosy? Do they like everything? No. Because again, we're sort of at this very
macro, 35,000 foot level. Everyone's waiting for the detail which is down here at about the 1,000 foot level,
because everybody then says, “ah, I can see how this directly impacts me or doesn't directly impact me.” But I
don't see the unions as an obstacle. I see it as a chance for us to really sit down—Partnership. We've talked
partnerships before, but frankly, it can work and we need to collaborate from that standpoint.
Q: Is it possible to create a pay for performance system that is not marred by subjectivity?
Gen Speigel: Yes. Again, it's like any other evaluation system that's out there. We need to make
sure we put the right parameters around that. Many of you, maybe because of your jobs, deal with industry people.
But as I've talked to industry folks, they elaborate on their evaluation system. I've got specific milestones
and goals and measurable outcome. This is a fundamental shift for us because we don't typically think about
outcomes in a federal sector like we should. It's a chance to shift our culture. But that culture is not going
to shift overnight. So it's going to behoove the worker and the manager to sit down and make sure those
objectives are very clearly stated and measurable from that standpoint.
It's not going to be just the manager's say on that. Frankly, the way I see it shaping up, just like we do
today. We have our various committees that get a look at performance appraisals at the end of the year and
decide how they might want to spread out the bonus money. People are going to have to be able to come back, talk
about that, the pay pool's going to talk about that, so it's a collaborative effort from that regard and not one
So I see a very measured step forward and shift in our culture to talk about outcomes instead of the way we
currently do business today.
Thank you for your time.
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